Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 3 October 2022:
2 Samuel 7:3-5 — And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in?’”
Nathan originally gave counsel to David based on what seemed right to him without actually asking God. Our first response, based upon our own understanding, is often wrong. We need to be VERY careful to understand the difference between special revelation (guidance given by the Holy Spirit for a specific circumstance), Biblical revelation (specific commands and general principles provided in God’s word), intuition, human reasoning, emotional (irrational) decision-making, and careless decision-making based on misplaced presumptions.
By his own calculus, the prophet Nathan inappropriately advised David – “the Lord is with you.” God corrected him, and Nathan had to return to David with a different word. In fact, the Lord was not supportive of David’s intent to build the House of God. Though a genuine prophet, Nathan was speaking from his human perspective and reason — that’s ok if it is understood for what it is and not misrepresented as a word from God. On the surface, there was nothing bad about Nathan’s first counsel – building a temple for God isn’t a bad thing. However, it wasn’t what God intended for David, and therefore would, in fact, be sinful (wrong, off target) – “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Nathan knew that, in fact, God was generally “with” David, and Nathan was perhaps giving David general advice in lieu of specific direction from God. After all, Nathan did not say, “The Lord says….” However, Nathan’s first counsel, on no small matter, was presumptuous.
Many today are far too careless speaking on behalf of God – “God told me….” or “God has revealed to me…,” when in fact they are speaking from their human perspective (hopefully at least informed by the Bible, prayer, and Christian counsel). Many self-proclaimed prophets and teachers announce new revelation from God which later proves to be false. This is why the Bible says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) How do you test the spirits?
For one, follow the example of the Bereans who judged the merit of prophecy and teaching from the word of God – “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) God will not tell someone to do something that is contrary to His word.
Second, consider the source by looking at the fruit of the life of the prophet, teacher, or counsellor. Those in the Bible who were appointed as apostles, prophets, and teachers were not self-appointed but rather appointed by God; were known for their holiness, humility, and love, and usually paid a heavy, heavy personal price for their position, such as poverty, persecution, and martyrdom. Not a hint of pride should be found in a leader, teacher, or counsellor. If you are deciding alone (hopefully only in an immediate situation), without the advice and counsel of other trustworthy Christians, ensure you are praying (Philippians 4:6-7), in God’s word (Psalm 119:105), and honest about your motives (Christ-centered or self-centered? Romans 12:2). Then use the intellect God gave you, remaining receptive to the Holy Spirit. If you are not producing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, 23 — “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….), you are not likely making good decisions. Avoid making decisions when you aren’t in the right spirit, emotional state, and frame of mind. At times like that, be still and focus on returning to unity of spirit with Christ. Finally, when you do make decisions, don’t look backwards – acknowledge they are likely imperfect, trust God to use even your bad decisions for His purposes, trust God’s grace and perfect provision for you, remain receptive to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, learn, grow, and remain joyful and content knowing nothing can separate you from God’s love and providence.
Nathan was a true prophet; but not everything he said was prophetic. When God speaks; there is no doubt that it is God; God’s words will be very clear, and ALWAYS true. Most importantly, God’s revelation will never contradict His written revelation of the Bible.
- Jeremiah 27:15 — I have not sent them, declares the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name.
- Lamentations 2:14 — Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.
- Ezekiel 13:9 — My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions.
- Matthew 24:11 — And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
- Jeremiah 17:9 — The heart is deceitful above all things….
- Proverbs 28:26 — Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
- Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2 Samuel 7:7 – …did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel.., saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
David intended to do for God what God never desired from him. We can easily get wrapped up in activities, projects, or programs with good but misguided intentions. This is one of the reasons people are so harried and often burned out. “If only I had more time….” God has given you just enough time in the day to peacefully do what He intends for you to do, but no more. What are we doing that was never intended?
2 Samuel 7:27-29 – For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.
God’s promise of mercy and grace gives us courage to approach God in prayer and to count on His blessings forever.
Hebrews 13:2 — Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
The Bible expects you to be like the Good Samaritan to strangers. God may test you with a stranger in need.
Hebrews 13:4, 5 — Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Family issues and financial issues are the biggest causes of stress and discontentment in most people’s lives. The Bible says that the key to both these areas of life is to be grateful for and content with what God has given you, dedicating everything to His glory.
All sexual immorality is forbidden and will be judged, but how casually we take sexual sin today.
“Be content with what you have.” Discontentment is a sin that always gives birth to more sin until it destroys you.
Hebrews 13:10 -16 — We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The Book of Hebrews ends in chapter 13 with some overall principles of how to live the Christian life and to offer “sacrifices pleasing to God.” (Isaiah 56:7; Hebrews 13:6) The chapter starts with how to treat others – with love, hospitality, empathy, and compassion. (Hebrews 13:1-3) Then, the chapter talks about how we should live personally – with purity, satisfaction and steadfastness. (Hebrews 13:4-9)
Then Hebrews expands upon how we are live our lives in Christ by encouraging us to live by “faith… strengthened by grace” and warning us not to be led away by empty, ritualistic, works-based, powerless religion with its practices “which have not benefited those devoted to them.” (Hebrews 13:9) What follows are some of the most difficult verses to understand in the entire book – Hebrews 13:10-16. These verses refer to the Old Covenant sacrificial system for atonement of sin in order to proclaim the “Good News” of the perfect and ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our eternal atonement and life in Him, the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which put an end to the old system, a sacrifice which isn’t ritualistically representative but is real, a sacrifice which isn’t brought by us and cannot be fulfilled by earthly priests, a sacrifice not of the blood of animals but rather the blood of Jesus, the Son of God; a sacrifice that not only pays the penalty for our sin but overcomes sin, a sacrifice which lives eternally in Christ and provides eternal justification (Christ’s justification given to us), and a sacrifice which gives us eternal life with God, which begins not when we die, but immediately upon accepting this gift of grace through Jesus. (John 17:3) Above all else, the writer of Hebrews wants us to remember and live by the awesome truth and power of the Gospel –
“God, through the perfect life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, rescues all his people form the wrath of God into peace with God, with a promise of the full restoration of His created order forever – all to the praise of the glory of His grace. Salvation from the judgment of God into fellowship with God is all of God. It is not of us. That is good news indeed!” (The Gospel, Ray Ortlund)
“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” The author of Hebrews exhorts us to leave our old ways of sin and religion based on works, legalism or merit, and live by faith, trusting in salvation through grace, through Christ alone. He encourages us to “go with him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” reminding us of Jesus’ words — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) This is a call not just to understand the Gospel but also to live the Gospel and to proclaim the Gospel, regardless the cost, trusting God with the circumstances with the hope of our eternal reward.
The author of Hebrews encourages us to continually offer sacrifices to God with both the “fruit of our lips” and good works, “for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:15-16). This is the “ministry” and “message” of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), which always go together (ministry or message alone is not enough). We are called to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ in relationships with others as His ambassadors, ministers and messengers of reconciliation, ‘bearing the reproach he endured’ as sinful people naturally treat us sinfully, continually praying on their behalf, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As we interact with others in this broken world, we are called to “continually” praise God, acknowledging His Name, sharing the Gospel, and doing good works in His Name as new sacrifices, sacrifices of genuine love, which are pleasing to Him.
In a world polluted with sin, we don’t place our hope in worldly systems, but we “seek the city that is to come,” we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33),” and we live by the motto “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” as we eagerly await Christ’s return and His final restoration. While we await the new creation, the new heavens and earth that will be ushered in by Christ, we live today as new creations and Kingdom citizens, proclaiming the kingdom that is at hand but yet to be fully revealed – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 October 2022: Consider carefully the counsel you give others. Pray with them, direct them to God’s word, and ensure your advice is consistent with God’s word. Be clear about the difference between your opinion and what the Bible actually says. When receiving counsel from others, always test it against God’s word, and seek to remain prayerfully obedient. In decision-making, be careful not to rush to judgment or mistake emotion for the Spirit. Today, live by faith strengthened by grace, live today as Kingdom citizens, and proclaim Christ both in word and deed.